Perspectives

Index Exchange Looks Ahead: Our Outlook for 2021

It’s no doubt that 2020 was a different year for all of us. Despite the challenges the year brought to our industry and otherwise, ad tech (being ever-resilient) has been able to pivot and respond to the market’s needs accordingly. It has also been experiencing a renaissance of sorts, driven largely by a recent resurgence of IPOs and M&As, as well as the increasing need to prioritize the consumer. 

So what can we expect in 2021? To kick off the year, Index Exchange’s CMO Lori Goode sat down with Matthew Scott Goldstein (MSG), an independent analyst, advisor, consultant, and author of the quarterly newsletter What I Saw Happen, to discuss their predictions for the year.

Flexibility and Recovery

When the world came to a sudden halt last year, marketers and publishers alike had to pivot on a dime and ensure their business strategies continued to align with the best practices of our ‘new normal.’ For Index Exchange and our partners, this nimbleness will continue to be critical as we navigate some of the uncertainties of 2021.

“We can’t forget what makes programmatic so resilient in the first place,” said Goode. “Its flexibility allows marketers to quickly and easily pause and restrategize their campaigns at the push of a button. This was evident at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when we saw a swift decline in ad spend across the board.”

This inherent flexibility is part of the reason why ad spend has largely recovered since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s been encouraging to see ad spend return the last few months, with retail, CPG, and telecom categories skyrocketing,” said Goode. “While we’ve seen a return in most categories, auto and travel understandably continue to lag.”

“If things start to return back to normal for a certain region, then marketers who have been pushing social distancing messaging, for instance, would be able to modify their creative in that region quite easily,” explains MSG.  

Omnichannel Opportunities

With digital advertising in general recovering, 2021 will also be a pivotal year for omnichannel opportunities, especially over-the-top video (OTT). Just as the explosion of online content transformed the publishing industry, at Index Exchange, we’re watching the same occur in video.

“As our omnichannel capabilities increase, so do the opportunities for marketers to deliver more timely and relevant ads to consumers, ultimately improving the storytelling experience,” said Goode. “There are still quality assurance and brand safety concerns with OTT, but that’s why it’s critical to build a strategy that places quality and consumer trust at the forefront.” 

MSG did outline some additional challenges with OTT, such as frequency capping, but said that “Once we solve these challenges in OTT, the potential for growth in the space is exponential.” 

Preparing for a Cookie-less World

It’s been one year since Google announced that it will be phasing out cookies for its Chrome browser, following the likes of Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari.

“This means we’re one year closer to a cookieless ecosystem, a challenge that needs to be solved sooner rather than later industry-wide,” explained Goode. “But we’ve always seen this as an eventuality, which is why we’ve incorporated cookie alternatives for years, having most recently announced our support for Unified ID 2.0.”

At Index Exchange, we’re committed to helping publishers monetize while driving results for advertisers, and currently have existing integrations with LiveRamp, Merkle, NetID, and The Trade Desk. Though the elimination of third-party cookies is a massive shift for our industry, we’ve confidently been working to future-proof the strategies of our publisher and marketing partners, in order to prepare.

The Way We Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a plethora of new and changing products, processes, and technologies in every industry. But perhaps the most impactful change is to the way we work, with remote working continuing into the foreseeable future.

Part of that challenge means managing large teams who used to be in the same room but are now separated by webcams and monitors.  

“We’ve taken to working from home in stride, with our most recent (and first remote) Hackathon being a good example of how we can problem solve and execute when not in the same room,” said Goode. “We’re an engineering-first company, and what we noticed is that many of our engineers have figured out productive ways to work remotely (and in some cases prefer it).”

All in all, Goode is quite optimistic about the year ahead. 

“2020 was the perfect example of how you can take a crisis, demonstrate resilience,  and come out stronger on the other side,” continued Goode. “Now that we’re in 2021, we’re going to continue that momentum and deliver great products that create a safe and relevant ecosystem for consumers, drive the bottom line of our publisher partners, and ultimately propel the ad tech industry forward.”

*Some quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.